Photo by Mary Mumbrue

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Anyone walking through downtown Evanston may detect something particularly fragrant in the air: a new spice shop, The Spice and Tea Exchange is open at 1615 Sherman Ave. A ribbon-cutting event took place on May 14, as Mayor Tisdahl welcomed the new business to the area. The shop features not only mixes of specialty teas and spices, but also many flavors of salt and sugar and recommendations on how to use each of them.

“I am a chef by heart,” said Teri Barton, who opened the franchise with her husband, Dan. The couple decided to introduce The Spice and Tea Exchange to the North Shore soon after Mr. Barton retired from working 35 years in corporate finance while Ms. Barton was a professional chef. “He was too young to retire,” said Ms. Barton. After 16 years in Connecticut, the couple moved to Evanston, where Ms. Barton grew up. “I’ve always loved Evanston,” she said. Opening the franchise here was a perfect fit. “He could do his business and I could do my cooking,” she said.

The ribbon-cutting event featured food and drinks made with the unique tea and spice flavors that the shop offers. A sparkling wine cocktail made with Blood-Orange Smoothie Herbal Tea was one beverage the shop crafted for the event. “It is taking a new spin on a drink using tea,” said Amy Plaisted, director of marketing and franchise operations. The franchise, which started in Florida, now has 42 locations across the country and specializes in creating unique blends from spices hand-mixed in the store. “Open up the jars. Smell them. Enjoy,” said Ms. Plaisted.

Many other spice mixes were highlighted in recipes created for the occasion by the Bartons. “It came to me to use the Bloody Mary mix blend to dip the rim,” said Mr. Barton, presenting a plate of shrimp shooters in shot glasses. He made “pirate bites” using a six-pepper spice blend. “It just takes a little bit,” he said.

The shop encourages all customers to explore the selections to get a sense of the variety. “Smell everything and check it out,” said Rae Killebrew, who has worked at The Spice and Tea Exchange for two weeks. Going from one wall to the next, Ms. Killebrew described a few favorites, including Black Chocolate Tea, Sriracha Sea Salt and Pizza Seasoning Spice Blend. “It is so awesome,” she said of working with the Bartons and around so many wonderful flavors. “Our blends are who we are. Everything here is us,” she said.